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Biophys J. 1995 May;68(5):2156-70.

Calcium transients in cerebellar granule cell presynaptic terminals.

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Department of Neurobiology, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, USA.

Erratum in

  • Biophys J 1995 Aug;69(2):729.


Calcium ions act presynaptically to modulate synaptic strength and to trigger neurotransmitter release. Here we detect stimulus-evoked changes in residual free calcium ([Ca2+]i) in rat cerebellar granule cell presynaptic terminals. Granule cell axons, known as parallel fibers, and their associated boutons, were labeled with several calcium indicators. When parallel fibers were extracellularly activated with stimulus trains, calcium accumulated in the terminals, producing changes in the fluorescence of the indicators. During the stimulus train, the fluorescence change per pulse became progressively smaller with the high affinity indicators Fura-2 and calcium green-2 but remained constant with the low affinity dyes BTC and furaptra. In addition, fluorescence transients of high affinity dyes were slower than those of low affinity indicators, which appear to accurately report the time course of calcium transients. Simulations show that differences in the observed transients can be explained by the different affinities and off rates of the fluorophores. The return of [Ca2+]i to resting levels can be approximated by an exponential decay with a time constant of 150 ms. On the basis of the degree of saturation in the response of high affinity dyes observed during trains, we estimate that each action potential increases [Ca2+]i in the terminal by several hundred nanomolar. These findings indicate that in these terminals [Ca2+]i transients are much larger and faster than those observed in larger boutons, such as those at the neuromuscular junction. Such rapid [Ca2+]i dynamics may be found in many of the terminals in the mammalian brain that are similar in size to parallel fiber boutons.

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